Victory in St Albans roof repairs battle

PUBLISHED: 15:04 14 February 2010 | UPDATED: 14:53 06 May 2010

A BILL for roof repairs in a block of flats has been reduced by thousands of pounds after the residents took action over the original £11,000 they were each told to pay. At a meeting last month, the district council told the 15 private leaseholders in St

A BILL for roof repairs in a block of flats has been reduced by thousands of pounds after the residents took action over the original £11,000 they were each told to pay.

At a meeting last month, the district council told the 15 private leaseholders in St Pauls Place, off Hatfield Road in St Albans, the estimated cost of the work would now be about £8,350 - around £2,700 less than they first thought.

The residents in the block, of which the council still holds the freehold, were incensed when they received the original £11,070 bill out of the blue in November 2008 and quickly took action.

The matter went before a Lease Valuation Tribunal in April but residents withdrew the action when the council agreed to carry out the consultation process again and they later conceded that the original consultation was flawed.

The council has said that the reduced cost presented at a meeting last month is down to increased competition among tenders in the current economic climate.

But leaseholder Neil Jordan, 29, is still unhappy and objects to paying what remains a huge sum of money for him and his fiancée Kaye, whom he is marrying in May.

He said the whole saga has left a cloud hanging over their lives for more than a year as they simply could not afford to pay the bill.

Neil said: "They are saying this is a reasonable amount but I don't think money of that size can ever be reasonable. I'm really disillusioned and fed up with living in St Albans.

"The whole thing has just made me want to get out of St Albans as I feel I have been let down badly by the council."

Neil has vowed to continue fighting until the council comes up with a "reasonable sum" but he admitted that he was running out of options to do so.

The council has offered an interest-free loan to cover the bill which will be payable over five years and there is a possibility that residents can put a charge on their property for the work but Neil is unsure if he will qualify for the latter option.

However they choose to pay the bill, it will seriously hinder their chances of moving up the property ladder which they were hoping to do in the next couple of years.

To add insult to injury, the couple were also among the 14,500 postal voters whose data went missing when a council laptop was stolen.

St Albans MP Anne Main, who attended the last meeting, said: "It is a significant reduction but obviously people are still not happy as it's a lot of money to find.

"No one has come away happy with this, it has put people's lives on hold."

But she said the residents now felt they had had their say and been successful in standing up to the council and fighting the original costs.

Chris Damri, the council's interim asset manager, said the total cost was subject to a number of variables but was likely to be £8,350. He said that the charges the leaseholders would have to pay would reflect the cost of the necessary work.


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